Intertwined Histories: The Legacies of Colonialism and Empire

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Intertwined Histories: The Legacies of Colonialism and Empire

June 18 @ 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Registration is now closed but you can join us on YouTube here.

Organised by the Danielle Wilson Higgins, Communications and Events Manager and Dr Linda Grant, Governance Officer, with support from the Equality and Diversity Working Group

Last year saw a shift in the way Society views and engages with contested heritage and this seminar will encompass 6 short papers (20/5minutes) on each of the key themes: The UK and Slavery; The UK and Colonialism; Diversity in UK Heritage; International Perspectives; and Literary Contexts and will end with a keynote paper by Raksha Dave.

This will be the launch event for a series of panel discussions in 2021/2 on different themes prominent within these discussions; The UK and Slavery; The UK and Colonialism; Diversity in UK Heritage; International Perspectives; and Literary Contexts.

This event will take place online only.

*Programme is subject to change.

1.00: Welcome by President Elect, Professor Martin Millett FSA

1.10: International Perspectives: Goodna Girls: A History of Children in a Queensland Mental Asylum by Dr Adele Chynoweth FHEA OAM, Centre for Heritage & Museum Studies, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, The Australian National University

Abstract: Goodna Girls (2020) by Adele Chynoweth comprises the research that informed a successful collective campaign to lobby the Queensland Government to make long overdue and much-needed reparation to former child inmates of Wolston Park Hospital, an adult psychiatric facility in Queensland, Australia. This paper will examine the consequences of the Queensland Government’s manipulation of a medical model to respond to ‘juvenile delinquents’, many of whom were simply vulnerable children absconding from abusive conditions. As Australia, through a series of government inquiries, faces the repercussions of the institutionalisation of its children in the twentieth century, this paper will argue the need for both an activist-led public history and a revised historiography that acknowledges the legacies of institutionalisation of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

Biography: Adele also studied theatre direction at the Flinders University Drama Centre and completed her PhD with scholarship support. Her subsequent professional theatre credits led to her work as part of a creative team commissioned to create the Memory Museum for the Centenary of Federation of Australia and later as a curator for the National Museum of Australia. She has also worked as an advisor on museum and community memory projects in Australia and Denmark. Adele was a Lecturer in the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies at the Australian National University where she received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Public Policy and Outreach in 2018. Adele is the author of Goodna Girls: A History of Children in a Queensland Mental Asylum (ANU Press, 2020) and the co-editor of Museums and Social Change: Challenging the Unhelpful Museum (Routledge, 2020). In 2020, Adele was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to public history. She is also a documentary filmmaker, working with Ronin Films on project development and production.

1.40: The UK and Slavery: Museums and Social Justice: Taking a Stand by Dr Richard Benjamin, Head, International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool.

Abstract: How do museums display and often reappraise contested and traumatic histories – offering opportunities for dialogue on uncomfortable themes? What role do the International Slavery Museum and other museums play in enhancing social justice and social cohesion and making these narratives more diverse and inclusive in a period of unrest and insecurity? Museums should not only be platforms for dialogue on issues such as the legacies of transatlantic slavery, human trafficking, and decolonisation, but they must revolutionize their collection practices, and hasten power-sharing between publics, communities, and academics.

Biography: Richard heads the International Slavery Museum at National Museums Liverpool. He leads the curatorial team and is responsible for partnerships, research, collections, and content development for the forthcoming capital transformation project. He is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, a partnership with the University of Liverpool. Richard gained a BA (Hons) degree in Community and Race Relations at Edge Hill College and completed an MA and Ph.D. in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool.  In 2002 he was a Visiting Research Scholar at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute of African and African American Research, Harvard University, and appointed as the head of the International Slavery Museum in 2006. Richard is a Trustee of the Anthony Walker Foundation, on the Editorial Board for MONITOR: Global Intelligence on Racism magazine, and a member of Everton Football Club External Equality Advisory Group.

2.10: The UK and Colonialism: Entangled histories: Britain and Jamaica in slavery days and beyond by Professor Catherine Hall, Chair of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, Department of History, UCL

Abstract: This brief talk will discuss the long history of entanglement between Britain and Jamaica which began in 1655. It will focus on the many ways in which Britons were implicated in the slavery business, especially through the ownership of enslaved people. It will argue that in addition to the many economic benefits that slavery brought to the metropole perhaps the most significant and damaging legacy was the forms of racialization which were perpetrated and have lived on into our present.

Biography: Catherine Hall is Emerita Professor of History and Chair of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College London. Her recent work has focused on the relation between Britain and its empire: Civilising Subjects (2002), Macaulay and Son (2012) and Hall et al, Legacies of British Slave-ownership (2014). Between 2009-2015 she was the Principal Investigator on the ESRC/AHRC project ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ ( – which seeks to put slavery back into British history. Her new book will be Making Racial Capitalism: Edward Long’s History of Jamaica.

2.40: Diversity in UK Heritage: Colonialism, Empire and the London blue plaque scheme by Howard Spencer, Senior Historian, Blue Plaques, English Heritage

Abstract: London’s blue plaque scheme dates back to 1866, and commemorates many prominent individuals involved (or enmeshed) in the British imperial project. This paper will explore some of the issues around recent attempts to contextualise the plaques to some of those involved in the building or running of the Empire. It will also look at attempts to boost the number of blue plaques to BAME figures, many of whom found themselves in London because of its status as the first city of Empire.

Biography: Howard Spencer is a senior historian with English Heritage, and has been working on the blue plaques scheme since 2004. He is the editor of The English Heritage Guide to London’s Blue Plaques (2nd edn. 2019), and was previously a research editor at the Oxford DNB and a research fellow at the History of Parliament.

3.10: Literary Contexts: Haunted by History: Reading ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ in 2021 by Dr Linda Grant, Governance Officer, Society of Antiquaries of London

Abstract: The paper would be based on Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ published in 1966, with the story set in the 1830s. Rhys was born in Dominica in 1894 and came to London when she was 16: she was categorised as a ‘white Creole’ and her book deals with this contested identity. What makes it so fascinating is that her central character – Antoinette – is the ‘madwoman in the attic’ from Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’, a Creole heiress who the ‘hero’ marries for her inheritance before locking her away while he courts other women. Rhys’ text thus confronts and challenges an English literary ‘classic’ in rewriting a character who has conventionally been seen as monstrous. Instead, she decentres Bronte’s novel and gives Antoinette back a voice, speaking from the margins as a colonial subject to claim a place of her own at the centre of a text which is strongly inflected by issues of race, class, gender and ‘madness’. This paper will enlarge the scope of the event by looking at an example of how colonial/post-colonial ideologies and voices are represented and reproduced culturally via literature, and would complement some of the purely object-based research through a shared use of post-colonial theory.

Biography: Dr Linda Grant has taught at Royal Holloway, University of London, and in both the English and Classics departments at Birkbeck and Queen Mary, University of London. Her research focuses on discourses of love and the erotic, including the historicised body, rape and sexual violence, and has a particular interest in women’s writing. She has also written on theorising reception (including prequels, sequels and parallel texts) and modes of intertextuality. Since 2019 she has worked part-time as the Society’s Governance Officer.

3.40: Music History and Black Performance: African American Musical History: Its interface with the Americas, Europe and the world by Josephine Beaton, Nubian Jak Community Trust

Abstract: African American Music. Exploring how the only original art form developed in the USA came about, why it continued to invent and develop through societal changes whilst retaining integral style and performance features, and how jazz and blues spread across the world. It will consider cultural transmission and cultural appropriation.

Biography: Josephine Beaton, MA Oxon, has contributed research from various sources to numerous articles on early African-American jazz and blues, including Black Music Research Journal Vol.29 & Vol.30 in 2009/10 pub. Centre for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago, John Chilton’s book “Sydney Bechet – The Wizard of Jazz” pub.MacMillan Press 1987, besides articles on individual artistes and bands touring the British Isles and Europe, pub.Laurie Wright, Chingford, Essex. Josephine is a retired  East End Secondary Headteacher, currently heavily involved in the Nubian Jak Community Trust’s Project to raise a statue in homour of the Windrush & Commonwealth Nurses, with accompanying book.

5.00: Keynote Paper  chaired by Nathalie Cohen FSA, Equality and Diversity Working Group.

Why representation matters by Raksha Dave

Abstract: This keynote explores why diversity and inclusion are integral to the success of the heritage sector. As the gatekeepers to human stories – why does the sector as a whole lack diversity in the workplace? By discussing and acknowledging current issues how can we improve to make our practices innovative and representative of the society we serve?

Biography: Raksha Dave is a Field Archaeologist, Public Archaeologist and Broadcaster. In 1999, Raksha graduated from the UCL Institute of Archaeology, having already excavated on research projects in the UK, Puerto Rico and Texas. In 2000, she secured her first position as a commercial field archaeologist based in London where she worked predominantly on some of the capitals most iconic multi-period archaeological sites. During this time she worked on various research excavations around the world including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Catalhoyuk Research Project in Turkey.

With experience in the time periods spanning prehistoric to the Second World War, in 2003, Raksha was recruited by Channel Four’s popular archaeology programme ‘Time Team’ – where she was a regular face on the show until its final episode in 2013. During her ten year stint on the show she excavated well over 100 sites including Westminster Abbey, Holyrood Palace, the D-Day defences and Normandy.

In between all of her time excavating, Raksha realised her passion for working with communities and the public whilst employed by a local authority in London; commissioning, developing and delivering public services in the education sector.  This is reflected in her later heritage work when she developed and managed various National Lottery Heritage funded community projects, sat on the board of trustees for the Council for British Archaeology (London) and became an advocate and patron for the Young Archaeologists Club.

She recently presented the BBC Learning Zone ‘Ancient Voices’ programme on Prehistory, Co-Presented ‘Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence’ for Channel 5 and ‘Digging for Britain’ – Series 7 for BBC 4. Raksha acts as an advocate and consultant for various arts organisations looking to broaden audience participation by looking at ways to encourage diversity and inclusivity in their environments.

Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event will be online only. 

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Registration is essential.
  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Once you have registered we will be in touch regarding how you can join via Zoom video-calling.
  • The event will also be live-streamed to YouTube here, so you can watch along if you prefer
  • Places through zoom will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • These event will begin at 13.00, BST.
  • You will receive an email with the link to join the seminar the Friday before.
  • Attendees’ cameras and microphones will be off throughout.
  • Questions can be asked through the chat function at the end of each session.

Please help the Society continue to deliver our FREE online Lecture Programme by making a donation to cover the cost of upgraded IT and software. We would really appreciate your support. Thank you! 

If you have any questions please contact our Communications Manager on [email protected]

Registration is now closed but you can join us on YouTube here.

Get tickets online


June 18
1:00 pm - 7:00 pm